Monday June 29, 2009
Convicted Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison Monday for orchestrating a fraud so extensive that the judge said he needed to send a message to all potential imitators and to the victims who demanded harsh punishment.
Bernard Madoff rose to prominence in the 1960's when he founded Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. His firm was an early user of the National Quotation Bureau's Pink Sheet and would eventually grow to become one of the largest market makers in the NASDAQ. Madoff would come to serve as Chairman of the board of Directors of the NASDAQ and on the NASD's Board of Governors.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin announced the sentence with Madoff standing at the defense table wearing a dark suit that seemed to hang over his thinned frail frame, white shirt and a tie. He appeared to have lost many pounds while awaiting sentencing. Weighing possibly 10-12 pounds less than he did at his last court appearance in March. Head barely raised, he gave no noticeable reaction when the sentence was announced.
This sentence dwarfs other prison terms handed out for other high-profile white-collar fraud in recent years, such as former Worldcom Inc. Chief Executive Bernard J. Ebbers, 67, and Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas. Ebbers is serving 25 years in prison, while Rigas, 84, is serving 12 years in prison.
After the victims spoke, Mr. Madoff himself stood up from the defense table to acknowledge the damage he had inflicted and express regret.
“I’m responsible for a great deal of suffering and pain, I understand that,” the 71-year-old convicted swindler told the court. “I live in a tormented state now, knowing all of the pain and suffering that I’ve created. I’ve left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren.”
A short time later, Ruth Madoff, who was not in court to witness her husband's humiliation, broke the silence she has maintained since her husband's arrest. "I am embarrassed and ashamed," she wrote in a statement. "Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."
Several victims applauded in the court room upon hearing Judge Chin's sentence. Many were more than happy to comment. Including especially moving remarks by Burt Ross, a Madoff victim and a former mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. Ross made it clear he was satisfied with the sentence and that Madoff deserves to go to his grave "an unmourned man."